More on Poppies

My memories of past Memorial Days sparked my curiosity about how the poppy had become such a strong symbol for our veterans. Who had started this tradition? How long has it been a part of our American lives?

I returned to The American Legion website and discovered that the soldiers returning from WWI had vivid memories of the battle fields covered with wild poppies. Poppies that were as “red as the blood that had soaked the soil.” These survivors felt that this little flower was Mother Nature’s message to them that their fallen comrades lived on–that they had not died in vain. Their feelings are expressed so poignantly in the poem,  In Flanders Fields.

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row

That mark our place…

and in the sky The larks,

still bravely singing,

fly Scarce heard amid the guns below

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved, and were loved,

and now we lie in Flanders Fields.

Take up or quarrel with the foe.

To you from failing hands we throw The torch;

be yours to hold it high

If we break faith with us who die

We shall ot sleep

though poppies grow in Flanders Fields.

Col. John McCrea

It was this poem that influenced Miss Moina Michael to write her response:

…the blood of heroes never dies

But lends a luster to the red

Of the flower that blooms above the dead

in Flanders Fields.

She was very moved by Col McCrea’s poem. On a November day in 1918, Miss Michael bought all the red poppies the New York City Department Store, Wanamaker’s, had in stock. She returned to the New York City YMCA where she worked, and gave them to a group of visiting business men. She asked that they wear them as a tribute to those who had given their lives in WWI. She told them that the war may be over but America’s sons would rest forever in Flanders Fields. Miss Michael went on to campaign for the poppy to become a national symbol of the sacrifice.

I believe that more knowledge is powerful. The symbolism embodies in this little red flower is strong. May it empower us and help us remember the sacrifices made for our freedom.

I am…

B…simply being…

God bless. Peace.

Thinking about Memorial Day

Do you remember the paper mache’ poppies? You know the ones we used to see everywhere when we growing up. I was one of the kids passing them out at the local grocery store in exchange for whatever donation was given. I am sure I was not happy to spend my Saturday there!

I was young and really did not appreciate–if I even knew–what that poppy symbolized. Because my dad was a veteran of WWII, he was an active member of the local VFW. My mom, my sisters, and I were part of the American Legion. One of the things we did for Memorial Day was make sure everyone had a commemorative poppy.

Late Saturday, an older man came up to me and asked if I knew what the poppy represented. This type of interaction happened to me all the time. There could have been ten other kids standing around but I was the one who was asked the questions. I debated saying I did know, but thought he may quiz me about it. I was honest and said I really did not know the whole story.

He told me it was important to know and shared this with me:

First of all, he said, you are not wearing the poppy correctly. It is to be worn over your heart. As he looked me straight in the eyes, he stressed that I would understand why this was important after he finished his story.

My memory is not complete so I am borrowing from an American Legion post:

The red petals stand for the vast outpouring of blood; the yellow and black center, the mud and desolation of all battlefields.

The green of the stem is symbolic of the forests, meadows and fields where generations of Americans have perished to make this land free.

The stem represents the courage and determination of our fallen warriors.

The assembled product, a flower, is a symbol of resurrection, which is sure to follow.

His words were much more simple, filled with the type of emphasis that only comes from being there, really experiencing the battles of war personally. He watched my face as he spoke, pausing now and then to make sure I was getting his point. When his story was complete, he stepped back in silence and somber reflection. He leaned toward me, asking me if I thought I understood why it is important to wear that poppy correctly? Now I was able to honestly answer that question. Which I did, with a soft and respectful, yes.

That was decades ago–probably over fifty years have passed since that grocery store lesson. I can picture myself standing beside this little round man, dressed in his bib overhauls, giving me the gift of a very powerful lesson about the real cost of the freedom.

Oh the challenges our nation has faced since that long past day in May. One thing has not changed. As Memorial Day approaches, it is vitally important for us all to remember those who have fought to defend our freedoms and those who protect us today.

We are in such turmoil and unease. As I asked last night, I ask for your prayers, remembering our great country and for those who defend and protect us. God bless them, God bless us all, and please, God, bless America.

I am…

B…simply being…

Peace. I love you.

 

 

 

Memories of Memorial Day

Memorial Day has never been one of my favorite holidays. The reasons go back to my childhood. I grew up in Iowa in the 50’s and 60’s–a time when the excitement over the Indianapolis 500 was surpassed only by the almost assured fact that there would be at least one serious injury to the drivers involved, if not a fatality. This race was the only race I remember my Dad listening to. I was an anxious kid about most things. Putting this race on the radio for what seemed like HOURS was a guarantee I would not have one finger nail left by the time the checkered flag flew.

When I was about seven or eight years old, Memorial Day activities changed. Our family suffered a loss that was very hard for my parents and, I believe, on their marriage. My mom had a very difficult pregnancy, one that sent her to specialists who were not successful in helping her preclude pre-term labor. Her prayers for a baby boy were answered; our prayers for his survival were not. We had one more Memorial Day together as a family, traveling to Waterloo, Iowa, to a cemetery not far from the hospital where Richard Dean Burton lived his short life and died. We did not linger there, I’m not sure my mom even got out of the car. One of us put a small bouquet of flowers on his yet unmarked grave. The short 50 mile journey did not take long. What made it seem long was the static on the radio as it played the sounds of the crowd and the racing engines of the Indy 500.

Shortly after that Memorial Day, my mom was diagnosed with a type of lymphoma. She fought hard but was not able to defeat the disease. Our family and our observation of Memorial Day changed forever. The family going to the cemetery was now smaller, sadder, seriously silent, lost in our own thoughts as the radio played the chatter of yet another Indianapolis 500.

Visiting the cemetery, even though it became one of the most constant traditions of our family, is not one I continue today. I moved from Iowa which gave me an honest excuse. It did not take away the guilt I felt for not going. To give myself some peace, I created a garden as a remembrance of my family members who have died. My garden is named the Donna Bethie Garden in honor of my cousin, Donna, and my sister, Beth. This past week, as pictured in this blog, I was able to get a great start on my garden here at our new home in Texas. I am thankful for the rain that has given it a boost and even more grateful that none of the rain storms came with hail.

And NO Indianapolis 500 coverage at all.

I wish you all a safe and memorable holiday spent in ways that give you joy.

I am…

B…simply being…

Peace.

 

 

 

More on Poppies

My memories of past Memorial Days sparked my curiosity about how the poppy had become such a strong symbol for our veterans. Who had started this tradition? How long has it been a part of our American lives?

I returned to The American Legion website and discovered that the soldiers returning from WWI had vivid memories of the battle fields covered with wild poppies. Poppies that were as “red as the blood that had soaked the soil.” These survivors felt that this little flower was Mother Nature’s message to them that their fallen comrades lived on–that they had not died in vain. Their feelings are expressed so poignantly in the poem,  In Flanders Fields.

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row

That mark our place…

and in the sky The larks,

still bravely singing,

fly Scarce heard amid the guns below

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved, and were loved,

and now we lie in Flanders Fields.

Take up or quarrel with the foe.

To you from failing hands we throw The torch;

be yours to hold it high

If we break faith with us who die

We shall ot sleep

though poppies grow in Flanders Fields.

Col. John McCrea

It was this poem that influenced Miss Moina Michael to write her response:

…the blood of heroes never dies

But lends a luster to the red

Of the flower that blooms above the dead

in Flanders Fields.

She was very moved by Col McCrea’s poem. On a November day in 1918, Miss Michael bought all the red poppies the New York City Department Store, Wanamaker’s, had in stock. She returned to the New York City YMCA where she worked, and gave them to a group of visiting business men. She asked that they wear them as a tribute to those who had given their lives in WWI. She told them that the war may be over but America’s sons would rest forever in Flanders Fields. Miss Michael went on to campaign for the poppy to become a national symbol of the sacrifice.

I believe that more knowledge is powerful. The symbolism embodies in this little red flower is strong. May it empower us and help us remember the sacrifices made for our freedom.

I am…

B…simply being…

God bless. Peace.

Thinking about Memorial Day

Do you remember the paper mache’ poppies? You know the ones we used to see everywhere when we growing up. I was one of the kids passing them out at the local grocery store in exchange for whatever donation was given. I am sure I was not happy to spend my Saturday there!

I was young and really did not appreciate–if I even knew–what that poppy symbolized. Because my dad was a veteran of WWII, he was an active member of the local VFW. My mom, my sisters, and I were part of the American Legion. One of the things we did for Memorial Day was make sure everyone had a commemorative poppy.

Late Saturday, an older man came up to me and asked if I knew what the poppy represented. This type of interaction happened to me all the time. There could have been ten other kids standing around but I was the one who was asked the questions. I debated saying I did know, but thought he may quiz me about it. I was honest and said I really did not know the whole story.

He told me it was important to know and shared this with me:

First of all, he said, you are not wearing the poppy correctly. It is to be worn over your heart. As he looked me straight in the eyes, he stressed that I would understand why this was important after he finished his story.

My memory is not complete so I am borrowing from an American Legion post:

The red petals stand for the vast outpouring of blood; the yellow and black center, the mud and desolation of all battlefields.

The green of the stem is symbolic of the forests, meadows and fields where generations of Americans have perished to make this land free.

The stem represents the courage and determination of our fallen warriors.

The assembled product, a flower, is a symbol of resurrection, which is sure to follow.

His words were much more simple, filled with the type of emphasis that only comes from being there, really experiencing the battles of war personally. He watched my face as he spoke, pausing now and then to make sure I was getting his point. When his story was complete, he stepped back in silence and somber reflection. He leaned toward me, asking me if I thought I understood why it is important to wear that poppy correctly? Now I was able to honestly answer that question. Which I did, with a soft and respectful, yes.

That was decades ago–probably over fifty years have passed since that grocery store lesson. I can picture myself standing beside this little round man, dressed in his bib overhauls, giving me the gift of a very powerful lesson about the real cost of the freedom.

Oh the challenges our nation has faced since that long past day in May. One thing has not changed. As Memorial Day approaches, it is vitally important for us all to remember those who have fought to defend our freedoms and those who protect us today.

We are in such turmoil and unease. As I asked last night, I ask for your prayers, remembering our great country and for those who defend and protect us. God bless them, God bless us all, and please, God, bless America.

I am…

B…simply being…

Peace. I love you.